Tenure of NDDC Board Can’t Expire in December, Says Warri Lawyer

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A Warri-based lawyer, Mr. Jesutega Onokpasa, has described those insisting that the tenure of the present board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) should expire by December as “rabble-rousers and ‘rascally elements,” who intend to unilaterally rewrite the enabling law for the National Assembly.

In open letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki, which was made available to THISDAY on Tuesday, Onokpasa argued that the tenure of the present board of NDDC cannot expire this December, and faulted the claim of the rabble-rousers that the said board was appointed to complete the tenure of the board it succeeded, and that as such, its tenure must expire when that of the erstwhile board should have expired.

He noted that Section 5, subsection 3 of the NDDC Act provides that where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the board it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor.

Onokpasa, however, added that this section also provides that the successor shall represent the same interest and shall be appointed by the president subject to the confirmation of the Senate in consultation with the House of Representatives.

“Now, clearly, this provision applies to situations in which there is a substantive board in place and a vacancy or indeed a number of vacancies happen to occur therein. Nowhere in this or any other section of the act is there even the slightest indication that such tenure completion is envisaged for the entire board or even that a new board might complete the tenure of a sacked one.

“Thus in contemplating such vacancies and their replacements, the law envisages that the board is still in existence, and that as such, any corresponding replacements on the board become part of that board as if originating with it from its beginning, wherefore such replacements must exit with those members of the board they joined midway.

“Therefore, in the present scenario, unless there are members of the former board that was sacked that are still serving in the present board, and even at that, serving in the present board, not on the basis of a fresh appointment but on the basis of their appointment into the sacked board, then there was no substantive board in existence when the members of the present board came on board, wherefore there are no sitting board members that they met on ground and joined, and therefore no board members whose tenure should expire in December 2017, whom they must then exit with,” Onokpasa added.

The lawyer further argued that “even if certain members of the former board had been retained in the present board, unless their membership is based on the original appointments they were given four years ago, and unless they were not given fresh appointments with their other colleagues last year, their tenure cannot be deemed to expire this December since the fresh appointment would serve in law to have superseded their previous appointment and they would therefore be deemed to have been given a fresh mandate of four years alongside their new colleagues.”

He insisted that the present NDDC board led by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, as Chairman and Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director, did not meet any board members on ground when it took over at the commission.
According to him, since Ndoma-Egba and Ekere did not join up with any other members from the board it succeeded, and have no reference point whatsoever from the point of view of tenure with the erstwhile board, they cannot possibly be envisaged under any legal parameters as liable to exit their offices with persons no longer on the board.

“That President Muhammadu Buhari, in his wisdom, while constituting a new board, decided to distribute the posts in the new board in generally the same manner in which they were distributed in the previous board was clearly inspired by the fact that the sacked board did not complete its full tenure, and so he felt it would only be equitable to give the various states their due in the new board,” he stated.